Salewski/Christensen Headline First Team Griders
The 2016 M&O All-Conference teams have been announced. It is no surprise that the Coleman Cougars dominated the honors in the same fashion they dominated most of the year. Coleman's nine first team selections are tied for most in the conference. Peshtigo also secured nine selections, which is no surprise since the final game of the regular season between these two teams came down to the wire.
The guys in green are highlighted by highlighted by several key skill position players, but it was a lineman upfront that received top honors. Senior Donovan Salewski was named not only to first team offense and defense as a lineman, but was also named Lineman of the Year for the second consecutive year.
"Donovan played more snaps than the other offensive and defensive lineman did. He rarely left the field when the starters were on the field. Offensively, his pass protection improved and he again displayed good feet for a player of his size. Donovan helped our offense grind out yards until we hit the big play," Coleman Coach Jeff Bronson explained. But it wasn't just his offensive prowess that earned him the reward, "Defensively, Donovan was moved around the front. If we thought we could find a match-up, we would move Donovan to that place. Otherwise, we liked the idea of Donovan in front of Gunnar since we did not think both would be able to stay blocked long."
Salewski isn't the only Cougar on the offensive line to be recognized, and the way Coach Bronson sees it, this one is much deserved. Tyler Patz earned himself a first team offensive lineman honor.
"He missed the first two games with injuries and once Tyler came back, our offense took off. Tyler isn't the biggest center in the conference but he was incredibly important to us." Bronson added, "He built off of a strong junior season to an even better senior season. I'm very pleased that he was recognized as he deserved it."
Of course, when two offensive linemen from one team are selected, they must have been paving the way for someone. A key beneficiary of such stout line-play was Jake Zeitler. This sophomore bruiser wore out defenders by delivering his own big hits. Zeitler put up gaudy numbers, 1402 yards on 162 carries including 23 trips to the end zone and five successful two-point conversions. However, Coach Bronson says those numbers could have even been better, "His yardage is skewed as we still shared the ball. In a different system where he would get the majority of carries, his numbers would be much better."
That's a scary thought for defenders when considering what Zeitler brings to the table, "He was our bell-cow this year as a sophomore. Strong with speed is the best way to describe Jake. He has the ability to wear teams down early in the game and then have the stamina and speed to take it the distance," Bronson explained.
Once defenses were finished game planning for Zeitler, they had to find a way to stop his counterpart, Austin Tachick. Last year's co-Back of the Year, this year was injured early, but it didn't stop him from putting up solid numbers.
"The injury bug hit him this year and he did not get a chance to repeat as back-of-the-year. When healthy, there might not be a better big play back in the league," said Bronson. His numbers speak for themselves, Tachick carried the ball 64 times for 411 yards including 7 TDs and 6 two-point conversions. He also added 3 TDs receiving on just three receptions that equated to 34 yards.
"Austin runs so effortlessly that it appears he is not trying, and then he pulls away from the defense. Besides his big play ability, Austin is also a threat to catch the ball from the back-field," Bronson explained. Tachick was also a member of the first team defensive backs.
At first, considering Coleman is known for their run game, it may be hard to believe they have the first team tight end. However, for anyone that has watched Gunnar Patz this season, they find out why. Patz secured nine passes this season for 127 yards, 4 TDs, and 4 two-point conversions.
"As a tight end, Gunnar is exactly what we want for our offense. He can pull, he can down block, he can get down field for the cut-back block and then finally has the speed to get open. He had a tremendous year overall and could have easily been back or lineman of the year," Bronson described Patz's versatility.
However, tight end likely wasn't even Patz's best position on the field. He was also unanimously selected as a first team linebacker. There, Patz recorded 84 total tackles including 9 tackles for loss and three interceptions.
"Gunnar was the focal point of our defense for two years at middle linebacker. He has good size and speed for our conference, has ability to make plays from sideline to sideline and can go through blocks. His play was noted by the other coaches as he was the only LB with all first-place votes," Bronson explains Patz's playstyle.
After a team finally figures out everything Coleman has to offer on offense and defense, they can relax. Until of course they see punter Josh Pillath walk onto the field. The senior only had to punt five times, but when he did, he made the most of it. Pillath averaged 39.2 yards per punt this season, and his coach couldn't say enough about his ability to pin their opponents deep.
"All-conference punter from Coleman is odd, but Josh had some of his best punts in the biggest games of our season. His punt in the second half against Peshtigo slowed the momentum they were building. Josh is a pretty good TE and LB too, but it was nice to see him get recognized," Bronson said.
When talking about the Peshtigo Bulldogs, the passing game is a must feature. It all starts with first-team quarterback Justin Thill.
"Justin took control of the offense after being inserted into the Northern Elite game. He made the right reads most of the time and had huge growth over the last 2 years to get this recognition," said Peshtigo Coach Eric Seyler. Thill finished the year with 94 completions on 185 attempts that amounted 1,138 yards, 19 TDs and just 7 interceptions. He also got the job done on the ground racking up 121 yards and 3 touchdowns on 41 carries.
"Justin's presence helped Jerod become the back he was this year. I was just really glad to see Justin have such a great year after his junior year and how he finished down last season," Seyler said.
Speaking of the speedy freshman running back, Jerod Jandt was also named to the M&O first team. Starting as a freshman can be difficult at the varsity level, but oftentimes Jandt made it look easy. Jandt piled up 1127 yards on 176 carries and found his way to the end zone 10 times.
"Once he learned to trust his line and force the hole, he really started having big games. His rushing helped make our passing game be effective. He broke many tackles to turn short gains into longer ones," said Seyler of his freshman speedster. Jandt helped the kick return game for the Bulldogs as well which included a 66-yard return for a touchdown against Bonduel.
There were two receivers named to the M&O first-team, both wore the Peshtigo "P" on the side of their helmet. Dalton Keller, a unanimous selection, and Jeremy Van Vooren helped the Bulldog passing game excel all year.
"Dalton was always a threat in the red zone due to his height. He also provided a threat allowing other receivers to be open and open up the running game," said Seyler of their number one receiver. Indeed, Keller's threat was felt all over the field as he compiled 329 yards on 26 catches. Of those 26 receptions, 9 of them found the end zone. Keller showcased his abilities this year against Suring when he hauled in five receptions for 93 yards and 4 TDs.
Jandt wasn't the only Bulldog with speed. Senior wide out Jeremy Van Vooren had a knack for burning defenders on the outside.
"Jeremy was our deep threat. It took a while for him to get going but once he did, teams had to respect the deep ball that he could get at any position on the field," Seyler explained. Van Vooren finished the year with 17 receptions which were good for 244 yards and 5 TDs.
Nearly no offense would be obtainable without the help of the big guys up front. For the Bulldogs, that all started with their center, Josh Biegler.
"Josh was our leader this year. After being all-conference last year at tackle, we moved him to center due to some injuries and he solidified the line for us. He helped pave the way for a 1000-yard rusher and made the right line calls for us," Seyler spoke of his importance to the team. Biegler displayed his versatility and importance to the team by taking over the center position after an outstanding season last year as an offensive tackle.
There weren't many defenses in the M&O scarier than the boys in blue from Peshtigo. Much of this havoc was brought by Gavin Forsberg, the speedy junior defensive lineman. Forsberg's combination of moves and quickness allowed him to be in the backfield nearly as much as the offense. His 30 solo tackles, 17 assisted tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recovers helped land the lineman on the M&O first-team.
"Gavin was a major disturbance on the defensive line for us. His penetration and disruption helped the entire defense be one of the best in the conference," Seyler said.
Of course, when putting a defense together, every coach knows you need solid linebackers. Peshtigo was lucky enough to have someone that fit that role perfectly. Senior Alex Harper was named as a first-team linebacker and his coach gave him quite the compliment.
"Alex was our bulldog. His intensity is hard to match. He provided a solid presence for us in the middle," Seyler exclaimed. Harper finished the year with 44 solo tackles, 21 assisted tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, an interception and 3 blocked punts including one returned for a touchdown.
Oftentimes youth and inexperience can be a downfall, but not for Mr. Do-It-All Nick Nielson. Nielson, just a freshman, earned first team all-conference defensive back, but helped the team in many, many ways. His 34 solo tackles, 16 assisted tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions and 5 passes defended earned him the first team spot.
"Nick's flexibility was huge for our defense. He played linebacker, safety, and corner. He's a solid tackler and a very good athlete," Seyler described Nielson. While Nielson earned his honors on the defensive side of the ball, he helped the team in many other aspects as well. Nielson was found all over the field including wide receiver, returning punts and kicks, the three spots on defense mentioned by Coach Seyler, oh, and did we mention he played quarterback for a few games at the JV level? Being only a freshman, Nielson will be a name to remember for years to come.
While having plenty of players on first team on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, Peshtigo also had one on special teams. Sophomore kicker Aiden Bohaczek connected on 3 of 4 field goals, 27 of 38 extra points and also recorded two touchbacks. Coach Seyler explains the importance of having a good kicker, "Aiden gave us a leg that we could use to put points on the board. His kickoffs helped our defense by pinning teams in their own zone."
Three Suring Eagles players were honored with a first team all-conference selection, one of which earned the illustrious Back of the Year award. Senior quarterback and linebacker John Christensen was named Back of the Year in the M&O, while fellow senior Dante Carlson was named as an offensive and a defensive lineman. Junior Cody Smith joined the seniors with first team honors as a running back.
Christensen was named to the first team defense as a linebacker. There, he totaled 69 tackles on the year including 10 tackles for loss. Christensen wasn't just a run stuffer as he also intercepted three enemy passes.
"John Christensen has been a great role model and player for my program over the last four years. He volunteers for everything that we do in the community and leads players on the field by the way he plays. He will be sorely missed," Eagles Coach Mitch Taylor stated.
Christensen was also a threat on the offensive side of the ball. As a quarterback, he was named to the M&O's second team. With 856 yards passing and 10 TDs through the air, this QB also got it done on the ground, picking up 566 yards and adding four more TDs. His play on both sides of the ball as a back helped earn him the Back of the Year award.
"Dante Carlson has been a three-year starter and this past year led our team in tackles. He is a tireless worker that gave everything on the field. You had to double team him on every play or he would be making the tackle. He is another one that played football the right way," Taylor describes his lineman.
Carlson led the Eagles in tackles with 95 total which also featured 11 tackles for loss. His work didn't stop there as he was also a turnover machine having five forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. But his presence was also felt on the offensive side of the ball. Carlson did the dirty work up front, clearing holes and keeping opposing defenders off of players like Christensen and Smith.
"Cody Smith was a steady performer for us in the backfield this year. He scored 7 rushing touchdowns and had 8 catches and one touchdown receiving. I am looking forward to seeing him improve next year as we start a new conference," Taylor exclaimed about Smith.
Smith's 338 yards rushing were highlighted by seven trips to the end zone. However, it wasn't just his work on the ground that made Smith special. He also hauled in eight catches for 93 yards and a touchdown.
Coach Grant Russ' Wausaukee Rangers landed three first team all-conference selections this season. Two seniors, Austin and Sawyer Dunlap, along with sophomore Joey Rozivka.
Austin Dunlap was named to the first team offense for his outstanding play on the offensive line. Austin helped clear the way for runners like Matthew Delfosse and Tony Rollo. Coach Russ says he will be hard to replace, "Austin is a three-year starter for us at center. He is the leader of the offensive line and makes most of our line calls. He is an excellent run blocker. We will miss his leadership next year."
Sawyer Dunlap found himself excelling on the other side of the ball, more specifically the defensive line. He finished second on the team in tackles with 52 total including 36 solo tackles. This senior made it difficult for opposing teams to run the ball inside says Russ, "Sawyer was a very consistent performer all year for us. He is an extremely hard working kid."
Another defensive selection for Coach Russ came from a youthful member of the Ranger squad. Joey Rozivka, a sophomore, was named to the first team as a linebacker. There, Rozivka piled up 64 total tackles that were highlighted by his 45 solo tackles. He also added two forced fumbles to a solid sophomore campaign.
"Joey led our team in tackles this year. He has a knack for being around the football all the time defensively. He is also the hardest hitter on our team," said Russ.
The Crivitz Wolverines were honored with two first team selections in senior defensive back Leevi Maye-Thomas and junior place kicker Terje Pederson.
Maye-Thomas certainly earned his position as a first team defensive back. He recorded 26 solo tackles, added 12 assisted tackles, 2 interceptions and 3 pass deflections for the Wolverines this season.
Crivitz Coach Matt Bernier says the back will be greatly missed, "Leevi Maye-Thomas was a two-year starting defensive back for us. This year he was also the starting running back. Leevi worked hard in the offseason to become a better player and he had a great senior season for us."
For as much talk as there is in the NFL about kickers struggling, Coach Bernier can tell you how nice it is to have a reliable kicker in Terje Pedersen.
"Terje was a nice weapon to add to our team this year; he is a foreign exchange student from Norway and came to us after our non-conference games, but was a pleasure to have on the team," Bernier said. Pedersen finished the 11 of 12 on extra point attempts. He also was four of four on field goal attempts including makes from 18, 21, 27 and 29 yards.
On the all-conference second team, Coleman had five selections: Brandon Patz and Matt Kostreva on the offensive line, Jake Baldwin as a running back, and Josh Pillath and Jordan Blanchard as linebackers. Peshtigo named six players to the second teams: Cam Lepkowski on the offensive and defensive line, Aaron Ehlert also on the offensive line, Connor Smith as a linebacker, and Riley Reif and Mitchell Van Vooren as defensive backs. Suring claimed three second team selections: Scout Gerndt as a receiver, John Christensen as quarterback, and Tyler McDougal as a defensive back. Wausaukee's Cody Renikow claimed the second receiver spot and Jack Lacount was named as a defensive back. Charlie Johnson of Crivitz was named as the second team tight end, along with Tyler Allen as an offensive lineman, Sam Spink as a running back and a defensive lineman, Mitch Banaszak as a defensive lineman, and George Andrekopoulos as a linebacker. Gillett's Jon Hoeft was named a second team offensive lineman.
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